Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant15
There are a handful of directors who can get away with the egotistical move of putting their own name in the title of a film, and Guy Ritchie isn’t one of them.
The paper thin reasoning behind it is that there’s already a film titled The Covenant, but as it’s not unusual for duplications of film titles, that doesn’t really wash.
This then is the British director’s fourteenth film, and serves as a departure as it’s as close to being a mature, serious drama that he’s gotten yet.
2018 and the US Army find themselves on foreign soil in Afghanistan, fighting the Taliban. Heading his unit is Master Sergeant John Kinley (Jake Gyllenhaal), who are tasked with seeking out their enemies bomb-making factories and destroying them.
As they’re ‘in country’, they need an interpreter to help them out on a daily basis, when it comes questioning the locals. He’s recommended Ahmed (Dar Salim), who considered somewhat of a wild card, knows four languages and knows his stuff.
It’s not long before his team find themselves in some seriously hot action, and Kinley soon discovers that he certainly made the right choice in Ahmed, who proves to be a real life saver.
Although the film is keen to point out the plight that interpreters have suffered working for the US government, this isn’t based on a true story, despite feeling like it from the off. But then again, perhaps the air of realism around it simply comes from the fact that it doesn’t star one of Ritchie’s regular main men Jason Statham.
The same could be said by the simple fact that it does star one of the best actors of his generation in Gyllenhaal, who can be really quite serious when he wants to be.
And although it wears the kind of camouflage you would expect from a war film, it’s more a film about heroism, on a very personal level, as the relationship between Kinley and Ahmed develops.
It’s this relationship that’s the driving force behind this film. It’s one that benefits from one of the traits the director has used many times in his films before, that of masculinity and how it’s used. It’s certainly evident here, but it’s quite subdued by Ritchie’s standards, and benefits greatly for it.
Kinley and Ahmed certainly develop a bond, but instead of being testosterone-fuelled, it’s born out of a mutual respect for one another, that translates well on screen for both their respective storylines.
It’s Ritchie’s most mature film, with a political leaning for sure, that certainly shows him having another string to his bow. And although the script could have been a little tighter, with some aspects somewhat on the heavy-handed side – especially all the scenes featuring Kinley and his wife – it’s the performances from its two male leads that really make it shine.
He’s not at the stage of his career where his name can precede the film’s title, and we suspect he never will be, but what can be agreed on is that The Covenant is a terrific attempt by the British director at something a little different, that pays off fairly successfully for him and all concerned.